When it's time to leave a company you'll often be given leaving gifts, or at least a card. It might be wise to have a farewell speech prepared, even if you end up not delivering it.
What you say in a farewell speech depends on the culture of the company, how long you've been there and how much you've enjoyed working at the company. If you are retiring from a company where you have worked all your life then you'll almost certainly be the guest of honour at a major function.
But for most people it will be a hastily assembled group of colleagues just before lunch on a Friday afternoon. So don't get too hung up on it and make major notes to read from, but make sure you have in mind the main points that you are going to say.
1. Potted History in a Farewell Speech
Some of the people listening to you might not have been with the company for as long as you so a potted history is a good place to start.
Start at the beginning of your work here, no need to mention what came before, unless it's just in passing.
Keep it brief, bullet points only.
Keep mentions of promotions to the relevant ones to avoid looking big-headed.
Mention achievements but be modest.
Example: For those of you who haven't been here for as long as I have - I joined in 1995 from school / college / previous employer and worked for Mr. Smith before coming to this department via Sales and Overseas Marketing. I was privileged to be part of the team that successfully implemented Project Phoenix and there have been many other major milestones and achievements that I've enjoyed in my 14 years with the company.
2. Thank People When Leaving
If you've worked in a company for a long time then there'll probably be a number of people you'll want to thank.
You can't thank everyone so make a general thank you first.
Pick out those people who have particularly supported you.
Don't forget to thank everyone for any gifts and/or cards.
Example: There are many people here, both past and present, that have helped make my time here (pleasant / enjoyable / worthwhile). There isn’t time to thank everyone and I think you'd all fall asleep if I tried, but rest assured you are all appreciated. I'd like to particularly thank Bill for his support …. (and so on).
3. Weigh Up the Brickbats Before You Let Fly
Some people think that a leaving speech is an opportunity to score a few points against those people who have knocked them in the past or otherwise caused trouble. We're not going to tell you not to do that but it needs careful thought.
Consider the workmates or team you will leave behind.
Do you want to be remembered as someone bitter who rejected the chance to say some good words about the company?
If you must mention the bad times, don't be specific.
Ask yourself if it’s better to gloss over the problems and leave on a positive note.
Example: Most of you here will know about the difficulties we've faced in getting a cohesive team together and (notice the use of 'and' rather than 'but', as that's a word with negative connotations) I sincerely hope that efforts to improve that situation will continue in my absence.
4. Humour in a Leaving Speech
A farewell speech is a good opportunity for humour. A few well-aimed jokes at the institution and its culture will go down well.
Pick the right targets – yourself if you are unsure
Only make personal jokes about people if you're sure that they won't be offended.
Pick neutral, universal targets for your humour.
Example: One of the things I won’t miss is the coffee from the machines here! I much enjoyed the five-aside-competition every year although I'm not sure my team mates will share my emotions!
5. Time Your Speech to Perfection
People won’t thank you for keeping them away from their work for half an hour so five minutes, ten at the absolute maximum, is fine for a farewell speech.
Give your speech a beginning, middle and end
Read it out loud and time yourself
Trim it until it is about five minutes long.
You may think that's a very short time but you can say a lot in five minutes. Try writing a few notes out about anything, read them out loud and time yourself and you'll be surprised at how much you can say in a very short time.
6. Get Down the Pub!
To wind up with a final flourish, assuming the culture of the company allows a leaving drink, make sure that you tell people where and when you'll be going.